Le’Veon Bell, as expected, did not report to training camp on time today. His representatives and the Steelers could not come to terms on a muti-year deal by the deadline earlier this month.
While this is not strictly speaking a hold out because Bell is not currently under contract. Many people, myself included, expect him to sit out a few weeks to make a point and also to skip the rigors of training camp in Latrobe. Despite what some would have you believe, there really is no downside to Bell not reporting to camp.
• Bell has missed time before with two suspensions and the team rolled on without him, you say? You have a point.
On the other hand, upon return from those suspensions, Bell was immediately inserted back into the starting lineup and despite some who would have you believe that James Conner may establish a foothold that makes that difficult for Bell to step right back in, Bell is far and away the most talented and accomplished player at his position on the Steelers’ team. In fact, he is the most accomplished and talented player in the league. Conner has no shot at unseating him this season, no matter how long Bell stays away from practice.
• Team chemistry could be affected? I don’t see how.
Despite the pleadings of Antonio Brown (who I am happy to say seems GREEDY to win a championship) and Ramon Foster to report to camp, the door will be opened along with every teammate’s hugging arms when Bell reports. Not only is he that valuable to the team, as demonstrated by winning two Steelers MVPs, they also have a lot of history with him. The reason these guys feel comfortable giving Bell a hard time publicly is they know him well, like him and trust him. They don’t have any concerns about Bell taking things the wrong way and holding a grudge, nor do they hold one for him not reporting on time.
Bell is in excellent shape, knows his body and the offensive scheme very well. Once he does report, it will only be a couple of weeks before he’s ready for game action. Lest we forget, Bell received EIGHT touches all of last year during the preseason. He was also routinely given days off by Coach Tomlin during that same span. He wasn’t going to get many reps even if he had shown up for camp.
• Yes, Bell considers himself the team’s 2nd best receiver and the Steelers have added a slew of receiving talent with JuJu Smith-Schuster, Justin Hunter and the return of Martavis Bryant. But, the majority of passes Bell receives are short dump offs that amount to a “long hand off” (bear this in mind when criticizing imbalance in a Steelers offensive game plan). Bell does run some routes out of the slot and occasionally out wide, but not being at camp for a couple of weeks will not reduce the number of opportunities he has there.
• Bell recovering from groin surgery did have me somewhat concerned about his ability to cut early in the season. But, when he posted the video of himself playing basketball in Los Angeles last month, all of my worries in that regard were over.
Bell showed there that whatever rehab he had been doing must have been really effective.
• So, why would he hold out?
I wrote about this a couple of weeks back. He could just feel like skipping camp because it isn’t fun. He could be making a point about the offer the Steelers made to him, the way that Eric Berry did a couple of seasons back by skipping all of the Chiefs’ camp, when he was given the franchise tag.
He could also be trying to get the Steelers to promise not to use the franchise or transition tags on him next year, and he could be looking for more than $12.12 million on a one year deal.
I doubt the Steelers would give in to either of those demands. His agent has to know as much.
I expect Bell to show up after the 2nd preseason game, play out the season for a little more than $12 million, over 50% more than any other running back in the NFL, and then be franchised again in 2018. Let’s hope they can come to terms on a long term deal next year. It worked out for Eric Berry the 2nd time he was designated a franchise player.